“I thought I could earn my living by teaching”

So says Lady Isabel to her uncle, Lord Mount Severn, when he finds her living in Grenoble in the November 1860 installment of East Lynne. Her plan, as the narrator explains earlier in the novel, is to “Put the child out to nurse, conceal her name, and go out as governess in a French or German family” (349). Not surprisingly, Lord Mount Severn is not keen to have his niece work for a living; he admonishes her not to “add romantic folly to [her] other mistakes” and inquires, “And how much did you anticipate the teaching would bring you in?” (361). Isabel’s uncertain response is “A hundred a year, perhaps: I am very clever at music and singing. That sum might keep us, I fancy, even if I only went out by day” (361). Her uncle then announces that she “shall have that sum every quarter,” or £400 a year, which is far more than a governess would earn. But is Isabel correct when she speculates that she could £100 a year as a governess?

Below is an article from an 1843 issue of Punch, commenting on an advertisement for a governess published in the Times. According to the article, how much would a governess make a year if she were to accept employment as a morning daily governess for the Islington family? How much would she make if she found “two other employers of equal liberality” to work for as well? According to the article, how does a governess’s salary compare to that of a housemaid? According to your currency handout, how does a governess’s salary compare to other salaries? How does the Punch article compare to this post about teaching that has been circulating on social media?

You needn’t limit yourself to answering these questions in your comments. If you have other relevant comments to make about the article, please feel free to do so.

DUE DATE: Monday, April 3

Punch_To Daily Governesses_1843



One thought on ““I thought I could earn my living by teaching”

  1. While governesses in the Victorian era in England were beginning to live in a virtuous manner would patrons hire such maidens to spare time out of the day and dedicate herself to teaching. Therefore, such responsibilities troubled the typical governess apart from already having blemished the reputation prior through ads in Punch. With the application of one quotation relevant to how a governess was questioned in her maidenly duties—in the article, the words as follows:
    With what gratitude does Betty return to her scrubbing, and dropping upon her knees for work, how fervently does she thank fate that she cannot impart a sound English education,—that she knows neither French, nor music nor singing, nor dancing nor drawing! (141)
    These are thoughts which reveal the workload of the common female role model. Such figures in society helped maintain the education at a level in which the students were capable of representing the households bestowed upon them as a privilege of upper class membership. When considering whether or not dispersing a scholarly schooling without confrontation against other powerful influences, the complimentary rhetoric would be investigating cognitive capabilities of the governess and its ethos.Moreover, the publication indicates, “Pray that an early death nay take her to the churchyard, rather than her necessities should lead her to ‘Morgan’s-place, Liverpool-road, Islington’” (141), which substantiates the belief that when the female would associate with non-domestic household endeavors there was absolute disorder within the psychology lobe of the governess’ brain. Likewise, in Ellen Wood’s East Lynne, we get a similar passage which ponders the idea of nostalgia. For example, “When thoughts of the future life…she had been content to leave it to an indefinite future; possibly to a deathbed repentance” (350) depicts an outstanding characteristic of a generation of some qualitative tendencies pupils would enhance when under the supervision of a recognized instructor such as the governess.
    -Erik Lopez


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